Ichiro returns to lineup after rare day off

Ichiro returns to lineup after rare day off

Ichiro returns to lineup after rare day off
DETROIT -- Ichiro Suzuki was back at his familiar spot atop the Mariners' lineup on Saturday after a rare day on the bench. Manager Eric Wedge said he considered keeping Chone Figgins in the leadoff role, after he looked better in a 2-for-4 effort there on Friday, but instead stuck with his normal batting order.

Figgins, hitting .193, will hit eighth against the Tigers in Saturday's 4:05 p.m. PT game. Ichiro has been in the leadoff spot in the Mariners' batting order since June 23, 2004, when he batted third against the Rangers for manager Bob Melvin.

"Yeah, you give it a thought. Of course you do," Wedge said of pondering the switch. "But if you take Ichiro out of the leadoff spot, then you've got to put Figgy or somebody else in there. And what I don't want is to make that move and then in a week or two or even a month from now feel like I have to make a move back.

"I don't think we've got other guys who are far enough along right now for me to make that move. And I'm also hoping that with Ichi having the off-day [on Friday], that will help him. So let's take that for a spin first, with him in the same spot, and go from there."

Ichiro, hitting .252 after a 13-for-87 stretch since mid-May, said after Friday's game that he really didn't relax during his rare day off. He'd started 255 consecutive games until Wedge sat him down.

"Actually, from a player's standpoint, you don't want to shut it down," Ichiro said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. "You want to be ready. That's something we all need to have in our heart, to be prepared."

Ichiro acknowledged he's going through one of the biggest challenges of his career, but indicated it's not the time to be making major changes in the approaches that have always worked for him in his career.

"There are many answers. There is not just one answer to this game," Ichiro said. "That's the tough part. We have to keep ourselves balanced in this game, good and bad.

"It's not about the end result yesterday or the end result tomorrow; it's all about mentality. That's why you want to keep the same basic approach to your game and not let that sway. Because if you do, then you'll start to run into big issues."